Thousands of people worldwide joined Million Mask March rallies organized by the amorphous Anonymous movement. Rallies, both peaceful and confrontational, protested austerity, surveillance, corporate greed and corrupt governments.
In a mass demonstration of people power, crowds of people in 450 cities around the world filled the streets wearing Guy Fawkes masks and carrying placards with the motto of the Anonymous hacktivist group: "The corrupt fear us. The honest support us. The heroic join us."
In London and Washington protesters clashed with police, with activists marching on Buckingham Palace in the UK capital, while in the US a few burned American flags -- previously a common scene only in the Mideast. Meanwhile, in other cities, the protest had more of a carnival air, with whole families parading the streets with their kids, wearing the white-faced masks. What united the global protests was a general anti-capitalist and anti-NSA surveillance mood.
RT's Sara Firth, reporting from the march in central London, outside the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace, Queen Elizabeth's official residence, found herself in the thick of it -- squeezed in between more than 1,000 protesters and large cordons of police. Pushed and jostled by police and masked demonstrators, she described the scene as "certainly not the peaceful movement that protesters said that it would be."
Protesters chanted , "Here we come, Tory scum!" and smashed police barriers along their way from Parliament Square to Buckingham Palace, where some of the masked protesters even climbed on top of the palace's gates and one threw a firework at the palace itself.
Among the crowds was comedian Russell Brand, a noted supporter of Anonymous and the Occupy movement, who was wearing an Anonymous mask on top of his head. Brand, who recently called for a "socialist, egalitarian" revolution in an interview with the BBC and called for people not to vote for any of the current mainstream UK political parties, was mobbed by enthusiastic supporters outside the Houses of Parliament. Some commentators have even suggested that Brand could lead the Anonymous group -- a controversial concept, as the movement has prided itself on being leaderless and spontaneously organized from below.
In an article Brand wrote for The Guardian hours before taking part in Tuesday's demonstration, he insisted that he was not looking to lead a movement, but simply to participate. "Luckily with organizations like them, Occupy, Anonymous and The People's Assembly I don't need to come with ideas, we can all participate," Brand wrote. "I'm happy to be a part of the conversation, if more young people are talking about fracking instead of twerking we're heading in the right direction."
But Brand, a controversial figure whose rugged good looks and flowing Christ-like mane have led to some likening him to a kind of comedy Messiah, was strongly attacked in much of the UK media for his intervention in the radical protest. Journalist Hugo Rifkind tweeted about Brand: "He went to an anonymous protest BUT TOOK OFF HIS MASK SO THAT PEOPLE WOULD KNOW WHO HE WAS."
The Independent reported another Twitter user as saying: "'Russell Brand becomes face of Anonymous protest': YOU'RE DOING IT RONG [sic]."
Separate UK protests coincided with the Million Mask March in London, with demonstraters rallying against growing austerity measures in the country. Britain's Green Party called on anyone who is opposed to the "heartless" cuts instituted by Prime Minister David Cameron's government to join in a rally on Westminster Bridge. Green Party spokesman Romayne Phoenix echoed many of the same complaints lobbed by Million Mask Marchers.
"This heartless government's austerity measures have hurt the poor thirteen times harder than the rich," he said. "They're slashed funding for vital public services, cut away the social safety net of benefits and seem determined to hammer the final nails in the coffin of the National Health service, an institution this country is proud of. At the same time they've let the banks ratchet up huge profits, allowed train operators to continue to rip-off customers and defended the energy companies whose soaring prices are forcing many people to choose between food and heating."
As the evening wore on in London, protesters lit up the sky with fireworks -- a traditional Guy Fawkes Day celebration -- across the street from the Houses of Parliament, while some danced and at least one person held a banner in praise of RT host Max Keiser, who presents his cult, anti-bankster program from the city.
While the London event was mostly about protesting government austerity measures, the Washington one had NSA's invasive surveillance methods near the top of the agenda.
"Five years after the financial crisis and banks being bailed out, we're still suffering. People are drowning in debt. We live in a country that is fundamentally unfair, we no longer have the rule of law," a participant smartly dressed in an Anonymous mask, plus a suit and tie, told RT correspondent Gayane Chichakyan in front of the White House.